'MSNBC Live' Anchor Stephanie Ruhle on the Joys and Struggles of Working from Home

"My sons, Harrison and Reese, who are 14 and 11, quickly became my audio techs, and my daughter, Drew, who is 7, became my hair and makeup person."

Stephanie Ruhle
Ruhle, with her son Reese, reporting on NBC News Now in May. Photo: Courtesy Stephanie Ruhle

I used to come home after covering the news all day and completely disconnect. I wasn’t talking to my family about my work at all. And then one day at the dinner table, the conversation turned to politics, and my kids were repeating a bunch of nonsense. I suddenly realized what a huge mistake I was making. There I was, reporting on these stories every day, and I wasn’t sharing them with my kids for my own self-preservation.

When the coronavirus hit, my family relocated from New York City to Long Beach Island, N.J., where I started filming MSNBC Live every morning in a makeshift studio in my garage. My sons, Harrison and Reese, who are 14 and 11, quickly became my audio techs, and my daughter, Drew, who is 7, became my hair and makeup person. And now they’re fundamentally a part of every story I do.

It doesn’t always go smoothly, though. A couple of months into the quarantine, Reese came into my studio — he writes for his school newspaper and was working on a piece for NBC Nightly News: Kids Edition — and asked me for some help with his script. I was set to go on the air soon, but the president started speaking, which can go on and on, so I told Reese to sit next to me for a few minutes so we could go over it together. It was then that I violated the No. 1 rule in TV, which was lowering the volume of my earpiece. The next thing I knew, someone was screaming, “Stephanie, Stephanie!” And I was live on the air. So I just stuck him on my lap and, you know, did my job.

I post lots of silly things from my life at home on social media, but when I posted the video of what happened with my son, it got over three million views on Twitter. I was so surprised at the response. But I think it resonated with people because the impact of COVID-19 connects us all. And for working parents, this time has been a huge juggle.

Yes, I have three kids who are distance learning from three different schools. And yes, at work we’re covering the most important story of our lifetime. Wrangling all of that is difficult. But considering how many other people are really struggling right now, it’s nothing. I consider the fact that I get to work from home a tremendous privilege. And I think those of us who have this option sometimes don’t realize how big of a privilege it really is.

The truth is, if I were covering the pandemic in the field, I would be working around the clock. I would leave the house every day before my kids got up and come home after they went to bed. I would be completely disconnected from my family. And I can tell you, since the quarantine started, we’ve never been more connected. It’s just been the five of us in one house for four months eating three meals a day together.

As a journalist, I’ve never actually covered a story that I’m also living in. And in normal times, lots of people tune out the news and say, “I don’t feel like listening today.” That is a privileged way to live. We can do that when we are not at risk. But right now so many people, in different aspects of their lives, are at risk, so they are tuning in. For journalists, the responsibility has become so much greater. I can’t believe how many viewers are writing to us every day because there is just not enough information out there. To let people know that we are with them and are trying to help them figure this out is by far the most rewarding part of my job.

And now, more than ever, it’s important to me that my kids have a front-row seat to all of it. They’re watching what I do and understanding that while they’re experiencing a lot of inconvenience, there are other people who are experiencing a lot of pain. It’s made them more civic-minded. It’s made them care more about the community and the country. And if we can get millions of Americans to care just a little bit more about the neighbor they’ve never spoken to, or to give a stranger the benefit of the doubt, I think this time will change us all for the better.

As told to Jennifer Ferrise.

Ruhle is an MSNBC anchor and NBC News senior business correspondent.

For more stories like this, pick up the September issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download Aug. 21.

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